Tag Archives: Rumi

This quote from Jane Goodall struck a chord with me. She said,

You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.

There have been times in my life when I’ve turned my eyes away and decided that my choices didn’t really matter in the big scheme of things. Sometimes I convince myself that it doesn’t really matter if I buy water in plastic bottles or don’t send a thank you note or don’t vote in all the elections. There are so many people and the world is so big, what difference can it possibly make if I leave the lights on or don’t write to my senator about the latest injustice? So I throw up my hands and figure it doesn’t matter.

On the other side, there have been times when I have poured myself, dedicated myself, committed myself to what feels like skillful and right action. My choice, for example, to eat a whole food plant-based diet and not to eat meat or factory-farmed eggs is grounded in my understanding of the catastrophic impact of livestock farming on the environment and that meat is unnecessary for good health. I know that the diet I choose is better for the earth, for my body and it’s definitely better for the animals but when I see that well over 90% of Americans eat meat and a lot of it, I feel the utter futility of my choices. Why bother recycling or writing a blog every week or being kind to strangers?

I’m a drop in the ocean. A grain of sand in the desert. Nothing I do or don’t do can possibly make any difference whatsoever.

And yet my body knows this isn’t true. The small choices I make every day to move mindfully, to drink plenty of water, to sleep and breathe and take care of myself does make a difference. Just one week of sitting in a car and not eating / sleeping / hydrating / moving as I usually do showed up in all kinds of discomforts.

My mind knows this isn’t true. The daily choice to meditate even for a few minutes ripples out in how I approach the world and myself.

My heart knows this isn’t true. My intention to connect with people — my family and friends, my students, my co-workers, cashiers and waiters and delivery folks — has a powerful impact on my sense of my community and my place in it.

I am a drop in the ocean and at the same time I am, as the 13th Century Persian poet Rumi said, “[I am] the entire ocean in a drop.”

I know in my bones and breath and heart that I am connected to everything. My choices matter. This is why I set an intention at the beginning of every class. This is why I choose One Word at the beginning of every year. I know I can’t help but have an impact on the world around me. I get to decide the kind of difference I want to make.

IMPORTANT NOTE: All of this is not to say that I’ve got all this figured out and that when I set an intention I always do it all the time. In fact, that’s absolutely not the case and that’s actually a great thing. We’ll dance with that, my friends, next week.


I’m a worrier. Always have been. My sweet mom used to give me strands of smooth worry beads to carry in my pocket to help ease the thread of anxious thoughts. Once she gave me a broad flat smooth stone with a divot in the center for my thumb. I rubbed it so hard, I broke it in half.

Over the years, I’ve been able to catch myself worrying at least enough to question the habit. Recently, one of my yoga teachers shared this lovely bit of Rumi that made my heart leap.

When I find myself niggling a worry, it helps me to cultivate a combination of stability and mobility. Together these sensations ground me and allow me to see more possibilities than the train wreck that I’m envisioning.

The genius poet Mary Oliver offers the wisdom of stability and mobility in her poem, I Worried.

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

If you’ve followed me at all, you know that my favorite app is Insight Timer, the free meditation app that offers a timer as well as thousands of guided meditations of all kinds. In particular for our focus this week, I like this Healing Vibrations meditation by davidji and this one about releasing worry from Lou Redmond and there are others about letting go of worry, too!

Instead of worrying — beads or stones or strands of thought — find your ground and mobilize your perception of what is possible.

The spaces inbetween – whether it is the spaces in our bodies, in the music, in our breath, or in our lives – can be both uncomfortable and rich with potential. In this season in between the harvest and the darkness, may we remember the power of dancing in the inbetween spaces.

The playlists from the week are below. If you’d like to listen to them, you can find almost all the music on Spotify where you can listen for free! Put the music we dance together with other pieces that lift you up, calm you, and challenge you!

But first, here are a couple of things you want to know about:

Susan Facilitating C’ville Dance Co-Op at Common Grounds on Sunday, November 5, 1030-12noon
I’m excited and honored to be providing the music and holding the space for the Cville Dance Coop on Sunday, November 5 from 10:30-12noon at Common Grounds. If you’re not familiar with the Coop, you can check it out here, but simply put it is a substance free, non-verbal, barefoot, 90 minutes of freedance. No steps to learn, no teacher, nothing but what’s flowing and moving in your own body. I’m calling my playlist Holroyd Tapestry ~ using music from the amazing Bob Holroyd woven together with other favorite artists with the intent of feeling the inextricable connection between us all. I hope you’ll join us.
C’ville Dance Co-op,
Location (Common Ground, 2nd floor of Jefferson School, 233 4th St NW)
Date/time: Sunday, Nov 5: doors open at 10:15am, entrance locks at 10:45am, dancing until noon, then closing circle
What to bring: Water bottle, comfortable clothes, optional donation for Common Ground
Check out guidelines here.

Nia classes for people with cancer, survivors, caregivers & staff at UVA with Susan Tate ~ on Mondays and Wednesdays
Join Susan Tate, Black Belt Nia Instructor for Nia classes with a focus on moving to heal on Mondays, 5:30-6:30pm & Wednesdays,12-1pm on the 4th Floor of the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center. These free classes start October 16 with a kick-off celebration class at 5:30 pm.  Registration is not required. Contact Susan Tate at susan@susantate.orgfor more information.

As always, please let me know if you have questions or how I can help more.
Dance on. Shine on.
Susan sig

*** PLAYLIST NOTE: My playlists can also be found on Spotify by following “susanmcculley” (no space) and look for Public Playlists. Sometimes music is not available on Spotify so I may replace with another version or skip songs . ***

Monday, Oct 30, 2017, 1045am ~ Inbetweenie

One Step Closer To You 4:41 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Somewhere In-Between (Bonus Track) 3:30 Judah & The Lion
Marisi 6:33 Cantoma
No Quiero Nada Mas 4:46 Sancti Spiritus
Toe Jam (Feat. David Byrne And Dizee Rascal) 3:22 The Bpa
Witchy Woman 4:13 Eagles
Under Pressure 3:58 Queen & David Bowie
Got My Mind Set On You 3:54 George Harrison
Shake Your Hips 3:29 Joan Osborne
Sometimes 5:14 Kaskade
Dance Floor (Nu Brazilia Remix) 5:28 The Tao Of Groove
Sunsethighway 4:00 Kiln
The Space Between 6:02 Zero 7

Tuesday, Oct 31, 2017, 840am & 5:35pm with Rachel & Mary Linn ~ Inbetweenie Halloweenie

I Don’t Wanna Know 4:29 John Martyn
By The Rivers Dark 5:21 Leonard Cohen
Mother Nature 4:42 Koko Taylor
Zombie Zoo 2:59 Tom Petty
Witchy Woman 4:13 Eagles
Under Pressure 3:58 Queen & David Bowie
Got My Mind Set On You 3:54 George Harrison
Let’s Go Crazy 4:39 Prince
I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) 4:53 Whitney Houston
Me And Bobby McGee 4:33 Janis Joplin
Sweet Little Angel (1990 San Quentin) 3:10 B.B. King
Mood Indigo 4:46 Charles Mingus

Wednesday, Nov 1, 2017, 11am ~ Inbetweenie

Aho 4:47 Ara Lee
Mulatica Mia (Cuba Remix) 5:32 The Tao Of Groove
Palais Mascotte 5:47 Patrick Duvoisin
No Quiero Nada Mas 4:46 Sancti Spiritus
Summertime is in Our Hands 3:48 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Keep On Searching 5:08 Kraak & Smaak
Mussiki é (Jungle Mix) 7:11 Miango
Sometimes 5:14 Kaskade
Hammer and a Nail 3:50 Indigo Girls
Holy War 4:22 Alicia Keys
Sunsethighway 4:00 Kiln
Tvameva 4:15 Sudha

Thursday, Nov 2, 2017, 840am ~ Inbetweenie

Aho 4:47 Ara Lee
Mulatica Mia (Cuba Remix) 5:32 The Tao Of Groove
Palais Mascotte 5:47 Patrick Duvoisin
No Quiero Nada Mas 4:46 Sancti Spiritus
Keep On Searching 5:08 Kraak & Smaak
Mussiki é (Jungle Mix) 7:11 Miango
Sometimes 5:14 Kaskade
Hammer and a Nail 3:50 Indigo Girls
Holy War 4:22 Alicia Keys
Sunsethighway 4:00 Kiln
Let It Go 2:16 Jamie Catto & Alex Forster


For more information about Nia and this rich system of training and learning? Everything Nia is at…
If you’re traveling or moving, you can find a teacher or classes wherever you’re going.
Interested in teaching or deepening your practice? Check out the Nia White Belt Training. They are offered all around the world so you can find one near you or where you may want to go!

Halloween marks the space between the harvest and the darkness. It’s a time when it’s thought that the line between life and death is softer. Much of our time in our culture is spent focused on here and there, now and then, you and me. But what happens if we focus on the space between?

If you’re interested in inbetweens, you might enjoy this post from a couple of years ago…Neck & Waist: The Spaces In Between


“…instead of resisting emotional pain, we [can] say Yes to our experience. The instant we agree to feel fear or vulnerability, greed or agitation, we are holding our life with an unconditionally friendly heart.” – Tara Brach

Imagine yourself sitting at a holiday table with your nearest and dearest. The table is set with shining glasses and dishes and is heavy with steaming, delicious food. As you get ready to eat, you ask everyone to say what it is that they are grateful for. The first person says:

“I’m grateful for my family, my friends and this food.”

The next person says:

“I’m grateful for making art with my step-daughter and niece. I’m grateful for my husband’s resourcefulness and his creative mind. I’m grateful for my friend Rebecca’s honesty and deep compassion. I’m grateful for smooth, satisfying potatoes, for rich roasted brussels sprouts, and sweet creamy pie.”

How do these two feel different when you hear them?

The first response is an idea, a thought about those people and that nourishment. The second, a more embodied gratitude, is based on noticing details and specifics about the objects of gratitude.

Gratitude. People have expounded upon it for as long as people have expounded. In this space alone, I’ve written about gratitude not once, not twice, but more more more more times than that. The reason everyone else and I write about it so often is that gratitude, if deeply felt, is a powerful transformational force. Gratitude can change everything.

Going back to our holiday table, I see that I can get stuck in the idea of gratitude instead of living the felt experience of gratitude. At its most basic level, gratitude is about appreciating what is happening now…whatever that is. We will have preferences, likes and dislikes, but real gratitude, gratitude that stretches our capacity to feel our lives, makes space for everything that is happening.

Once when I was all twisted up in my feelings about what was happening in my family, a friend said, “How do you know this isn’t exactly what needs to happen?” I sputtered around for a while about how it was obviously not what should happen, and she said, calmly and peacefully, “How do you know?” I had to admit that I didn’t.*

I think of that conversation often when I’m resisting my feelings about whatever is going on. And I recall that conversation when I read these two extraordinarily wise pieces by two teachers far more articulate and insightful than I could ever be. I recommend them highly.

Tara Brach, The Practice of Saying Yes

John Tarrant, How To Welcome the End of The World

Rumi’s classic poem, The Guesthouse, speaks succinctly of this gratitude practice of welcoming everything fully.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Gratitude is being present to whatever feelings are happening and saying yes, welcoming it all. My ability to fully embrace the challenging parts allows me to be fully present with the joyful, pleasurable, loving ones.

“Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

*An important post script: I am in no way suggesting that anyone who has suffered trauma or loss should say “yes” to the loss, only to allow for any feelings that arise. As Tara Brach says in the piece I reference above:

I do caution my students, however, that it is not always wise to say Yes to inner experience. If we have been traumatized in the past, old feelings of terror may be triggered. We might not have the balance or resiliency in a particular moment to meet our experience with unconditional friendliness, and our attempts at Yes might actually end up flooding us with fear. It would be better instead to find a way to alleviate the fear, perhaps by seeking comfort with a friend, doing vigorous exercise, or taking prescribed medication. For the time being, saying No to what feels like too much, and Yes to what simply works to keep us balanced, is the most compassionate response we can offer ourselves.

Deepest regret for my inadequate words and any resulting misunderstanding on this point.

row your boat 071716

Open your eyes, for this world is only a dream.
~ Rumi

Dreams are slippery little devils. Sometimes in the groggy early morning, Frank and I tell each other any dreams we had. But I have to be careful. If Frank tells his dream first, even if mine was vivid, it can slip away and dissolve before I can say it. It’s like holding onto a handful of sand in rushing water: it slides away between my fingers, irretrievably lost.

It’s not just night dreams that are slippery. Future dreams are elusive, too. Things I care deeply about like my personal future, or that of my children, or my country might feel clear in sweeping terms. I dream of traveling to Patagonia. I dream that my children will earn advanced degrees. I dream that America be a place where everyone is equal. But without clear steps toward making them happen, dreams tend to hover vaguely in the fuzzy, foggy sometime-future.

Fears for the future can be this way, too. I, like Mark Twain, have “had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” I can put a pile of energy into fretting over troubling upcoming scenarios. Either those things happen and I deal with them or they don’t and they float down the dreamy stream of the next thing I’m worrying on.

The past is weird. I mean, does it really exist? It feels like it exists, but where is it? And if it did exist but doesn’t now, then where did it go?
~ A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozenki

The past is similarly slippery. Think about what you had for breakfast. You may well remember the granola and blueberries, but even recent memories quickly take on a watercolory quality. Memories from childhood or your early adulthood or even last year, slide into that same dreamy zone as if you are remembering the events of someone else’s life.

Brain research suggests that three things impact the memorability of an event. If something is novel, if we play close attention, and it is associated with a strong emotion, the memory will stay vivid. Mostly, though, the past is as easy to pin down as a fresh watermelon seed. Put your thumb on it and it squirts away and disappears under the fridge.

Row, Row, Row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.
~ late 19th Century nursery rhyme

If day dreams and night dreams and the past are all amorphous, diaphanous aspects of our consciousness, what about NOW?

In Ruth Ozenki’s A Tale For The Time Being, the young Japanese character, Nao, struggles with the transience of now. To her, it feels like now is as slippery as a fat tuna. She says,

NOW felt like a big fish swallowing a little fish, and I wanted to catch it and make it stop.
…In the time it takes to say now, now is already over. It’s already then.
Then is the opposite of now. So saying now obliterates its meaning, turning it into exactly what it isn’t. (pp 98-99)

I can think of now as a thing to pin down but like a wriggling minnow, it squirms away instantly. If I get too tight with it, now feels like a tiny rowboat that I’m precariously perched on in the stream of time.

Alternatively, I can see now as the biggest space there is, the only space there is. Now is where everything is happening. The most direct entry point to this expansive view of now is through the body and sensation. The body can only be right here and now and we can be there, too, when we practice directing our attention. Whether you are remembering when the mean kids picked on you in 2nd grade or dreaming forward to your future seaside home, your body remains right here and gives you information about how those dreams feel now. Staying in the expansive now is simply a matter of practice.

This is no news flash. The practice of staying present isn’t anything new, but recognizing the dream-like quality of past and future can help me remember to stay anchored in now. Fear, regret and excitement about things that have happened or haven’t happened yet, just make me miss the life I’m offered in the present.

The body lives only in the flow of now. With tight, narrow eyes, I feel myself teetering precariously in a tippy little row boat of now, or I can relax and open and feel it as a big, steady river boat floating merrily along.

Much of life feels like a dream but with practice we can choose to plant our feet on the sturdy deck of now.

intent feeling first 122615
Your heart knows the way.
Run in that direction.
~ Rumi

The very word is grim. It rings of steely determination. Of buttoning up and buckling down.
There is no breath or life or joy in being resolute.
Resolutions grumpify me.

But intention?
That’s the kind of juicy goodness that I can get behind.
Intent is a powerful pursuit any time ~ not just at the end of the year.

But here we are, in the last week of 2015, so why not dig into the vital energy of intention?
(Especially since you’re reading a blog that explores “The Magic of Inquiry & Intent”?)

We are thinky creatures, we humans (especially we American humans), hell bent on our pursuit of happiness. Which is a cool and natural inclination, of course. With our resolutions, though, we go at it backwards. We start with What? instead of Why?

Resolutions are Whats: go to the gym every day, meditate in the morning, cut back on the coffee and the chardonnay, and of course, the ubiquitous, lose ten pounds. All fine things to do but they skip over the real question: Why?

Intentions are Whys. Intentions get at the root of what we want. Intentions are about how we want to feel. Going to the gym and cutting out caffeine and losing those pounds are really just means to an end. They are things that we think will make us feel a certain way.

Maybe they will and maybe they won’t. My suspicion is that one of the reasons people almost never keep their New Year’s Resolutions is that they don’t feel the way they think they will, so they quit.

Why not start with the feeling and build the Whats around that?

Think of something you really want and imagine yourself fully possessing it. What do you see when you have it? What do you hear? What do you smell and taste? Who is with you or are you alone? And most of all, what do you feel? Inside and out? Physical and emotional? What do you feel like when you have this thing you want?

Get really clear on that feeling. Then think of as many activities/situations/people that either already give you that feeling or other ways that you can get it. Focus on the feeling and expand your imagination to include as many ways as you can that you can get that feeling…including perhaps, but not necessarily, the thing you started out wanting.*

And there you have it: a list of Whats for creating a year that feels the way you intend.

Intention is about the feeling. What do you want to feel like in 2016? Let’s start there.


* With gratitude to Jamie Catto for his Practical Magic workshop which reminded me of this approach of feeling first.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy these:
GPS of Intent Pt I
GPS of Intent Pt 2

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